Garbage to manure
Kiran Narain

Fallen leaves, a precious recyclable natural asset, are often burnt
Fallen leaves, a precious recyclable natural asset, are often burnt

The chief constituents of plant food are nitrogen, phosphorus and potash and these exist in various combinations in plant and animal residues. All these may be present in your garbageómainly the kitchen refuse with bones, egg-shells, vegetable and fruit peelings, etc. Compositing is not difficult and there are methods to choose from.

Garbage can be converted into rich manure, by any of the following methods: The most common method is to dig a pit, three to four feet deep with breadth and length according to the area available, in a corner at the back of the garden. All the dry leaves (which are in such abundance in February to May in the plains and in the autumn in hill stations), lawn mowings, hedge trimmings, weeds, all the kitchen garbage like vegetable tops, fruit peelings, vegetable leaves, egg-shells, tea leaves, table scraps, ashes and old flower arrangements and rubbish should be thrown into it. The pit should be watered every fortnight preferably with cow manure and turned often. This will make an excellent leaf-mould in four to five months. If you like, the pit can be obstructed from view by growing a hedge on its sides facing the living quarters. Covering the pit with heavy plastic sheets will keep off the flies, scavengers and bad odour. It will also precipitate the decomposition.

But in big cities most of the people do not have that much of space. For them a neat and simple way of making compost is to make it in plastic bags. It will suit even those who live in flats. All you require is three or four heavy plastic bags almost the size of a pillowcase. Fill them with the garbage and a little manure or soil and tie them tightly with a cord and leave in the sun. Roll them over daily. Use and empty by rotation and by the time the third or fourth bag is filled, the first should be ready for use.

Another method is to put various materials in layers in a large bin or drum. First put a layer of grass trimmings and other plant materials and then a thin layer of garbage followed by a layer of manure or loose soil. Earthworms may be added to the drums after the pile is cooled down. They will help in speeding up the decomposition and will do the stirring part too. Tight fitting covers will keep off the flies, scavengers and unpleasant odours. You can have two or three drums and use them by rotation while the others are maturing. The drums can be painted in colourful designs.

A little agricultural lime, if added to the compost pit or drum, will ensure a quicker and more complete decomposition.

Natural manure has many advantages that the chemical fertilisers donít possess. For instance, you have to be very careful with the use and proportions of the chemical fertilisers whereas you need not worry about applying too much of the compost and burning your plants. The cost is also very low in case of the homemade compost and the leaf mould contains nitrogen, calcium, potash, phosphoric acid and humus, which help in raising the fertility of the soil. It makes the soil retain water and worms, which may help in aeration and improving the soil physically i.e. helping to bind particles of sand or to break up the stickiness of clay. Thus at no cost practically, you can convert your dull-looking yard into a lovely riot of colour and can arrange for a steady flow of fruit, flowers and vegetable to your table.